on 4 November 2009
There's little one can say about 'Fawlty Towers' that hasn't been said already - 30+ years later, it is still regarded as one of the finest comedies ever produced, the envy of so many writers and performers, and beloved by millions. The care and attention lavished on the writing of the series by John Cleese and Connie Booth, as well as their fantastic performances (aided and abetted by Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs) have helped the show achieve its iconic status. The shows are endlessly repeated on TV, and released on video and DVD. So, what makes this new DVD set worth your time and money?
The original DVD release of 'Fawlty Towers' was several years ago, and whilst the overall package was good, the picture and sound quality of the episodes was not as good as it could have been, particularly when it came to the outdoor scenes shot on film. For this new release, the episodes have been given fresh transfers, with both the videotape and film elements sourced from superior materials, and restored where appropriate - all are now completely unedited, including a line (" Is it your legs?") mysteriously absent from earlier DVD releases. In short, this set is a definite improvement on earlier releases, and is probably about as good as the series will ever look on DVD.
All the extras from the previous set are retained here - including cast interviews, commentaries from Series 1 director John Howard Davies and Series 2 director Bob Spiers, out-takes and other bits and pieces - but with the addition of some very exciting new material. Firstly, there are extended versions of the interviews conducted with the cast for the 2009 retrospective documentary 'Fawlty Towers: Re-Opened' (including Connie Booth, not featured in the earlier interviews). Secondly, and most exciting, is the addition of exclusive commentaries on every episode by John Cleese. These are, for me, the set's big selling point, and happily, they don't disappoint. Solo commentaries can be awkward and even dull at times without anyone else for the commentator to discuss things with, but Cleese is on fine form here - very well-prepared and insightful, he's full of interesting anecdotes and observations, and there's never a dull moment across the 12 episodes. Additionally, he draws attention to little details, jokes and background performances that one might easily have missed, and one's enjoyment of the series is greatly enhanced as a result. I don't think it would be overstating it to say these are some of the best commentaries I've ever heard on a DVD.
Put simply, this is an essential purchase for fans of great British comedy - and even if you've already bought the series on DVD before, the improvements and additions to this set make upgrading to this remastered edition very worthwhile.
on 19 November 2009
This is something 'Fawlty Towers' fans have been waiting for for a long time: ALL twelve episodes with complete audio commentaries from the genius himself 'John Cleese'
These new audio commentaries are worth the asking price alone as it is just like having John sitting next to you & watching with you. In fact even if you are not a fan of 'audio commentaries' you must make a point of watching 'Basil The Rat' with the Cleese commentary, as John says this is his favourite episode & it does show as his laughter during the episode has to be heard to be believed.
With the new 'Cleese' commentaries it almost like having twelve new episodes of 'Fawlty Towers' to watch as they are so good & as you will hear John is VERY thankful to all the cast & crew who were involved with the show especially: 'Ballard Berkeley'/'The Major' & 'Connie Booth'/'Polly'
In addition the remastered picture & sound is fantastic with some excellent sharp and bright images compared with the previous releases on DVD & videotape.
Finally the interview with Connie Booth/'Polly' is a very welcome addition simply because she has refused to talk publicly about Fawlty Towers or thirty years due to her new career as John explains on one of his audio commentaries, he also says she sends us all her love !
on 11 December 2005
Perhaps the most striking thing about "Fawlty Towers" is that, with so few episodes, it remains irrepressibly funny. No matter how often you watch, even should you become word perfect in the scripts, the action remains hilarious, not to mention outrageous. John Cleese and Connie Booth produced a masterpiece of comedy. Packaged here in three discs, the two series are accompanied by some less than memorable extras - a couple of interviews and a commentary - but, frankly, you don't buy a package like this for the extras, you buy it for the hours and hours of rib-breaking laughter.
"Fawlty Towers" does more than expose the incompetent, amateurish pomposity and rigid morality which seemed to characterise so many English hotels in the 1970's … particularly those of the seaside variety - 'Kiss Me Quick' hats and saucy postcards, but be back in your room by ten, no hanky panky, and breakfast is at eight!
Basil Fawlty runs his hotel the way some people run a private prison. The patrons are there to do as they are told … unless they can prove a certain social cachet. Cleese satirises the 'Englishness' of the seaside hotelier - racism in his treatment of Manuel and middle class consciousness in his treatment of the Irish labourers, the xenophobia and dreams of imperial glory in his attitude to the Germans, the prim outlook on sex, the cloying efforts to move up the ranks and mix with the upper classes while patronising American money, the horror of illness and death, the sheer terror in the face of psychiatry or even bureaucracy.
The ensemble cast are outrageously funny - incisive wit parallels slapstick comedy and farce in the finest traditions of the English stage. "Fawlty Towers", although a television programme, has that sense of live performance, that aura of being performed on stage for your delectation and delight. Perhaps that's what makes it watchable again and again - even in the latest technology of DVD it still appears as a live stage act. The humour remains somehow spontaneous.
But the humour isn't passive, it actively infects your consciousness. You can't pass a leylandii without wanting to uproot it and thrash a small car. You can't open a tin of biscuits without wondering if there will be a rat within. Every time I see a Waldorf salad on a menu, I snigger. Every time I reach round a corner to switch a light on … well, I live in hope.
You'll find all twelve episodes here - "A Touch of Class", "The Builders", "The Wedding Party", "The Hotel Inspectors", "Gourmet Night", "The Germans", "Communication Problems", "The Psychiatrist", "Waldorf Salad", "The Kipper and the Corpse", "The Anniversary", "Basil the Rat". The very titles are cue for laughter. Sound and picture quality are excellent. The quality of the writing and performance is timeless. The only thing wrong with both series appearing in one package is that you are emphatically reminded how few episodes there were. This really is a case of leave 'em wanting more!
on 20 February 2010
Every episode in crystal clear view. Wonderful. The extras dvd has in depth interviews with the cast, the interviews are a little "Alan Partridge" in tone, but enjoyable. You will never regret buying this, all episodes are just as funny every time.
on 8 September 2011
What can I say that hasn't already been said - I first watched these episodes when they were first aired and subsequently looked forward to repeat performances. (We didn't own a video at the time so repeats were the only form of back-up!)
And I think Mrs Smudger and I knew every line off by heart - we even bought the audio cassette tapes for listening to whilst on long car journeys. And more info can be found at N 51 24.266 W 000 47.760.
Thanks for the fun.
on 1 February 2008
Simply brilliant. Only 12 episodes but like diamonds, those things which are most precious are rare but incredibly valuable. Each episode is at least brilliant (Wedding Party, Waldorf Salad, The Builders, The Anniversary) whilst others (especially The Germans, The Psychiatrist, Communication problems and Gourmet Night) are simply legendary. The word genius is used with far too much regularity but in the case of John Cleese and co-writer Connie Booth, and for the performances too, it can't be used enough. The characterisations are great and capture perfectly the mentality and social situation of 70s Britain, they are an artefact of the period neatly timecapsuled for us to enjoy. It has aged very well, look beyond the cardboard scenery, the 70s hairstyles and fashions and each episode is a joy to watch. Despite the fact that they have been shown on TV so much and the fact that just about everyone you meet knows each episode so well, they are still and remain side splittingly funny and now, neatly packaged as a complete set with a natty little extras disc all for under twenty quid, its a steal!
on 30 October 2008
I am sure that you, reading this review of the Fawlty Towers boxset, are already well aquainted with this marvellous sitcom, and I am not going to bore you with details of the hilarity. Naturally (naturellement!) the episodes themselves are worth 5 stars apiece.
I am instead going to inform you of the things that you may not already know- the quality and quantity of the extras, and the transfer to DVD.
The first few episodes do not have very clear pictures- I bought series 1 on DVD seperately a while ago and the picture on this edition is somehow more grainy.
The interviews are a good accompaniment to the boxset, with a particularly long one from John Cleese. In addition to these is information on what some of the actors have done since Fawlty Towers, which is interesting but a little boring.
I mainly bought this boxset for the outakes- these would no-doubt be a fascinating insight into the actors, and funny also! But they were distinctly underwhelming- apart from John Cleese making silly faces at the camera I only counted 3 proper outakes, of which only 1 was worth seeing.
These faults, however, are totally overshadowed by the brilliance of the sitcom and, although some of the extras felt a little rushed, the extras do make a nice addition to the boxset and make it feel complete. If you already own both series on DVD then there is no real need to buy this boxset. But if, like me, you enjoy having all of your comedy in one place, and if you are itching to experience these extras, then by all means, go ahead. At £13.48, this is an absolute bargain, and if you do not purchase this boxset I shall come around and insert a large garden gnome in you.
on 4 November 2001
At long last - the complaete Fawlty Towers in one place - and on DVD too. This is British comedy at its best, proving that well written comedy never shows its age. Having watched Fawlty Towers over and over again for the lat twenty years i suspected that buying this set would just be a case of replacing my well worn VHS set. This was not the case as the newly remastered DVD's have added a whole new dimension to my viewing pleasure. Long live Basil Fawlty!!!
on 3 May 2006
Fawlty Towers is now rightly regarded as a comic masterpiece and after watching just one of these episodes you will understand why.
Considering the fact that both seasons (Season 1 - 1975 Season 2- 1979) were made well over 25 years ago, Fawlty Towers still stands very well with its fast, furious, razor sharp witty dialogue and nothing but excellent comic playing. Its an absolute gem!
John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth wrote all 12 episodes in the two series' that were made in 1975 and 1979. The quality never falters through any of these episodes. John Cleese and Andrew Sachs provide most of the laughs with Cleese playing the permantley harassed and fairly raving mad, Basil Fawlty, the incompentent owner of the appropiatley named Fawlty Towers and Sachs as the Spanish cook who has many hilarious moments with his delightfully fractured English, prompting Basil to continually justify to his baffled guests "Oh don't worry, he's from Barcelona". Classic stuff! Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty and Connie Booth as the poor put upon maid have their fair share of laughs too.
Its impossible to select a favourite episode so i'll let you judge for yourselves. A CLASSIC! HILARIOUS! An important contribution to British comedy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!
on 22 January 2004
Firstly my reveiw is based on the actual episodes and not the DVD as an item. I actually own the series on VHS and "Fawlty Towers" is probably the best example of how not to overkill an idea. The fact that there are only 12 Episodes over 2 series filmed 4 years apart (1975 & 1979) probably speaks volumes for the methodology in the creative genius of co-writers John Cleese & Connie Booth. So often we have sitcoms & comedy shows (more often American than British) that don't know when to kill a tired idea, often running it out to the point of boredom. That's not the case here. Each episode contains lines that have become part of everyday language (when have we not quoted certain "Fawlty" moments to our friends, loved ones or even ourselves?) - e.g "don't mention the war", "Que?", "Ohh I Knooww!", "you can see the sea, it's over there between the land & the sky!", "Basil!", "Which horse, Nitwit or Dragonfly?", "Just checking the walls", "Fawlty - what's wrong with him?", "why do they call you sister, is it a term of endearment?" etc ad infinitum. I find it difficult to watch any episode and not recite it virtually word for word.
It's not easy to pick a favorite episode. "The Builders", "Mrs. Richards", "The Hotel Inspectors", "The Germans", "Basil The Rat", "The Kipper & The Corpse", "The Wedding Party", "The Psychiatrists" & "Gourmet Night"... what the heck all of them have wonderfully absurd moments that just stick in the brain and stay there forever. From Basil finding bricks instead of valuables in a guest's briefcase, to him thrashing his car and not finding a duck in the trifle, to Mrs. Richards' "the hotel guest from hell", to Manuel serenading his "Filigree Siberian hamster", to Polly & Sybil entertaining on Gourmet Night, not to mention "Basil The Rat" in the biscuit tin. Care for some Sino-Scandinavian veal perhaps? Try cancelling your fruit salad (it's a bit difficult, chef's just opened the tin!)
Get the point? As I stated at the start I've concentrated on the show itself...after all, in this case, who really cares about the little extras. Buy it just for these 12 brilliant episodes because nothing else matters.